Robert Hilliker and Will Davis are friends and neighbors, living four blocks from each other in the Heights. Hilliker says they also are both passionate about helping other people.
It is this desire which has led to a unique partnership called Ethos Behavioral Health Group that is helping thousands of people in Houston and beyond get access to mental health care.
While Davis is in commercial real estate, Hilliker has spent 17 years in the field of addiction and mental health — including a stint at The Menninger Clinic as a post-graduate social work fellow, three years at The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston and another three years at The Daring Way LLC with Dr. Brené Brown, where he served as the chief clinical officer.
Both their skill sets proved valuable in 2014 when Hilliker approached Davis about a building he’d found in Montrose and an idea about a new approach to mental health.
“He got it immediately,” said Hilliker of the idea to bring together a community of health professionals who would practice out of the building and also serve as a resource to each other. They bought the building in April 2014 and opened The Lovett Center that September. Before long the building was fully leased.
“It took off like crazy,” Hilliker said of the collegial environment that was ultimately created. “We started as landlords and (then became) a group practice.”
In his work at Lovett, Hilliker said he encountered patients who had relapsed after residential treatment care.
“There were gaps in the treatment model,” he said.
Enter The Prairie Recovery Center in Round Top, which encompasses the more than 46 acres that Davis and Hilliker bought in December 2018. They opened the co-gender residential treatment center for substance and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring disorders a little less than a year later.
What Hilliker and Davis seek to provide is an entire continuum of care where patients are looked after well into the recovery process.
Another way to ensure this stability is to offer more availability of care. To that end, Hilliker and Davis, together with Ceci Torn, launched Ethos Behavioral Health Group in 2018. It serves as the parent company of The Lovett Center and The Prairie Recovery Center as well as Ethos Wellness and The PRISM Center.
The Ethos Wellness offices are small wellness centers designed to house up to five master’s level clinicians who will offer personalized individual, group and family therapy. There is currently an office on Woodway Drive and also one in Chicago.
The PRISM Center, a recent acquisition for Ethos Behavioral Health Group, is made up of two outpatient mental health therapy clinics in the Houston area specializing in an intensive program with both cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness approaches. Founder Martha Fontana, a licensed clinical social worker, will stay on board as the director of The PRISM Center.
While Hilliker said that they don’t want to get big for the sake of getting big, the addition of more clinics gives patients more access. The PRISM Center also has pre-established relationships with insurance companies, which is a benefit, but different from Ethos’ other clinics where the majority of the clinicians don’t participate in managed care insurance plans.
“We offer services on a sliding scale,” Hilliker said. “Don’t count us out.”
At Prairie, Hilliker said they do a lot of community-based meetings, promoting personal growth and recovery, like 12-step meetings.
“That’s how we should be using the center — as a community hub,” Hilliker said.
The open-arms approach to the public is also intentional for what the founders want to say about mental health.
“We have a country struggling with all manner of mental health issues and substance abuse issues, (and) we’ve stigmatized it,” Hilliker said. “We need to destigmatize it. The emphasis is on wellness. What does it look like to be well and to do well?”